Happy Birthday to the Duke of Edinburgh!


The Archbishop writes in the Sun on Sunday about sharing a birthday date with the Duke of Edinburgh, the joy of singing the National Anthem and the upcoming England game against France. His column in full follows.....

We are only 10 days into June, but what a month of celebrations it has been so far.  The weather may not be very joyful, but we have still seen millions celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the only sadness being the absence of Prince Philip at the concert at Buckingham Palace, the Service at St Paul’s Cathedral, and the fly-past.

Today is his ninety-first birthday, and I’m sure we all wish to express our warmest congratulations, and wish him many more happy birthdays.

As someone who shares a birthday with the Duke, I look with admiration and some envy on his stamina and resilience, which is an example to many much younger people! He has been and continues to be untiring in his support for Her Majesty the Queen, and his service to our nation. Indeed, we witnessed this last weekend, as he accompanied Her Majesty at the Jubilee events. At an age when many people would have already been retired for 25 years, he is still ready for anything.  It is no wonder that he is so inspiring to the young people he has helped through the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. The Award’s emphasis on physical achievement and on service as ways of building confidence and character reflects the Duke’s own experience and values.

Underpinning those virtues has been the strength of his faith. He and Her Majesty have weathered many storms because their lives are built on strong Christian foundations.

As Bear Grylls has said, it is in the storms that our strength is really tested.  We saw last weekend, the stoicism and strength, not only of the Royal Family, but also of the British people, as they sang and celebrated through the rain and the storms.  

A famous story in the Bible tells of two men who set about building a house – one built quickly on sandy shifting ground, the other built on a firm rock foundation. When the storm came, the house on the sand was destroyed, but the house on the rock stood firm.  Jesus Christ is the rock on which we build with love, faith and hope.

May our nation continue to be built on the strong foundation of love for God, service to neighbour, and the Christian virtue of hope, so that whatever storms may come in our lives, we will never be shaken or blown off-course.

We give thanks and rejoice with our glorious Queen and members of the Royal family that Prince Philip left hospital to be with his family for his birthday celebration. Please raise a glass of beer to the Duke. 91 cheers!!

God Save the Queen

Do you know all the words to the National Anthem?

I guess if you didn’t know them before last weekend, you probably do know them now! I hope so.

Early this year I visited Jamaica for the beginning of their celebration of fifty years of Independence. I was very impressed by the fact that everyone – even the very youngest children – knew all the words of their national anthem: we heard it sung with great enthusiasm wherever we went. We had no choice but to join in.

And so, this last weekend it was encouraging to see people singing along with our own anthem, and not just leaving it to the bands and the choirs. Because the National Anthem is a prayer – and a prayer that has been answered. We are asking that God will save our gracious Queen, that she will live long; happy and glorious, and that she will reign over us for a long time. God has answered this prayer, and we pray that he will continue to do so.

The second verse of our anthem is less well-known, but the words are worth thinking about: 

“Thy choicest gifts in store On her be pleased to pour, Long may she reign. May she defend our laws, And give us ever cause, To sing with heart and voice, God save the Queen.”

We do pray that God will continue to give our Queen – and all the Royal Family - all the gifts they need to carry out their service to the nation.  We pray that she will be a defender of our laws, and our virtues, and that we will go on being able to sing, “God save the Queen” for many more years to come.

Come on England

This famous prayer of Ignatius Loyola was said at the National Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at St Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday:

“Teach us, Good Lord 
To serve you as you deserve.

To give and not count the cost.

To fight and not heed the wounds.

To toil and not to seek for rest.

To labour and not to ask for any reward

Except that of knowing that we do your will.”

I realise that some other prayers will be going on for the English nation this weekend too. Because England’s football team is about to play their first match – against France – tomorrow night.

The National Anthem will play, the team will stand looking determined and proud. And we will all pray for them to win.

Come on England!

We may feel we really do need a lot of faith to have much hope for them this summer, with injuries, and other uncertainties facing them. But my prayer is that they play well together as a team; that they support one another; that they play fair, with courage.

May the next weeks lead to yet further celebrations for all of us!